24 hours in

24 hours into this foster parenting gig, i want to make note of some beautiful things:

like…

  • the way that V (age 15) searched me so intently with her wide, dark eyes, as if she was searching my spirit, trying to ascertain if i was safe, good. based on the way that she now looks just as intently into my eyes, but with a smile creasing her face, i conclude that she has decided i’m okay.
  • the chalk art of fancy ladies and hearts that appear, get erased, and drawn again on the chalkboard wall by J (age 7).
  • the fact that all six of us held hands in a long line as we walked from the mini van to the mexican restaurant the first night.
  • hazel puking all over the high chair, table, and floor at the mexican restaurant. J and V taking it all in stride.
  • seeing J play, so happily and so naturally making herself at home. she’s playing pretend, keeping so busy at it, as if it’s her job, which of course it is.
  • V with Gus, and how quieted he is in her arms.
  • J’s delight over el gato (the cat).
  • roasting marshmallows over the fire in the wood stove tonight, laughing when they went up in flames. J and V had never done this common american thing before.
  • the wholesome busy-ness of a day spent tending to the needs of four children, and especially feeding them.
  • Hazel trying to chatter away in friendly hospitality to J and V, not understanding that they cannot understand her. Hazel says to them, “you make funny words!”
  • J’s enthusiastic and sincere “thank you!” upon being told she would get to make her own pizza for dinner tonight.
  • the constant use of translation apps on my iPhone, and how humbling it is to be so utterly UN-proficient at something (speaking in Spanish).
  • chopping vegetables in the kitchen with V, asking her which ones she likes, and seeing her taste her first olive and twist her mouth with distaste at its flavor.
  • the blessedness of a quiet afternoon when my own littles were asleep and J and V sat cuddled on the couch watching a Disney movie in Spanish on YouTube, while i read my new magazine and sipped on tea.

feeling glad to be doing this work, happy for the ways it is already expanding us as a family, hoping and praying that Father will minister to their hearts in this home He’s given us to share.

 

home study #1

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today we had our first home study on this journey to become licensed foster care parents for refugee minors.

we sat around our table with a licenser and her supervisor, happily chatting, receiving instruction, answering questions, talking about why this is  road we’re walking in the first place.

and those reasons are so anticlimactic, so matter-of-fact.

and right now this entire thing feels so abstract, so far-off, so difficult to imagine.

part of me wants to do what i always do when i have Big Life Questions and want to anticipate and understand them: that is, i want to Google it. i want to devour articles and blogs and stories from others who’ve walked this road and been brave enough to share about it in a real way. but the google search results are yielding limited results, since the fostering of refugee foster kids is in so many ways a different animal than the fostering of american kids in the american system, and also less common, which means i haven’t been able to find a single blog/account/personal story of someone who has gone before us.

thankfully, we know a few families personally and we can pick their brains.

but really it might be best that i can’t piece together a detailed sketch of what this will be like: how it will feel to have him/her/them sitting at our table in the dark, quiet evenings, sharing a meal of food that i’ve learned to make just so that they’d feel a bit more at home, watching him/her/them play with my children in a manner at first tentative then surprisingly familiar, driving him/her/them to and from school, trying to communicate around language and cultural barriers, waking up to see his/her/their brown-skin faces greeting me.

how old will he/she/they be? we can’t seem to settle on a particular profile of The Sort of Kid(s) We Want, because we believe the Holy Spirit will tell us Yes or No on a case by case basis and really we can make anything work for a little while. and this sort of foster care is usually always just for a little while.

which leads me to wondering what it will be like to have him/her/them be here so briefly, requiring an opening of our hearts and hands and home to love and sacrifice, only to leave again, so soon and to such unknown futures.

the licensers told us today that the real need is for families who are open to taking teenage boys. boys will stay longer than just a few weeks because they are not transitional like the younger ones who are in pursuit of living family already in the country, but whom have no one else to go home to. they need a family that will stick with them for a long haul.

an african or south american teenage boy? for years? can we begin to imagine that?

tonight i told Hazel that daddy and mommy have been talking about having other boys and girls come live with us in our house.

me: “what do you think of that?”

h: “i think…good.”

me: “do you think it should be a boy or a girl?”

h: “a boy.”

me: “do you think it will be a big boy or a little boy?”

h: “a BIG boy!”

me: “like vivi’s big brothers max and ib (they are 15 and 16 years old, respectively, and one of them is a refugee from the Congo)? do you want a boy like that?”

h: “yes!”

i won’t read too much into that, but she’s been known to be weirdly prophetic in the past. i bless her open heart. later she exclaimed,”he come live in mine house with ME! i love mine house so much!”

when you buy a house that’s too big for you

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well, it doesn’t feel too big. in fact, it feels spacious and open and rather wonderful.

but the objective reality is that it really is too big. 6 bedrooms for a family of 4 is really a bit too much.

so when you find yourself in possession of such a house, and when your heart belongs to Jesus and He enlarges it in such a way that you have room in it, too… then you start to wonder about how you might be able to fill that house, grow that family.

  • will you have more babies?
  • will you adopt a baby? a child?
  • will you invite a college student to live with you?
  • will you foster a child in the US foster care system?
  • will you foster a refugee child? or one fleeing to the US to seek their parents?

each of these become real possibilities, as you’re pouring over adoption blogs, listening to the stories of folks in your community who’ve been foster parents, and keeping an eye out for a young person who might benefit from a family to live with for a season. and you keep asking God to lead you into the particular way that He has designed for you to fill that home and that heart of yours.

you find that as you move forward with this you don’t feel like an emotional crusader, intent on rescuing “those poor orphans” about whom you feel heavy-laden with anguish and worry. instead, you’re surprised to find that you’re rather matter-of-fact about it: you say, “we can do this, and this matters to God, so why wouldn’t we do it?”

you hope that doesn’t sound flippant or naive; for it is neither.

this comes after knowing about the hard parts, the stories that are really terrible and have not yet seen the fulfillment of the hoped-for redemption. this comes knowing that there will be a million small deaths to die every day, a lot of discomfort, and a lot of exhaustion. this comes knowing you will be changed.

but a lesson a wise woman taught you long ago is this: there is joy on the other side of obedience. and you have seen that truth demonstrated in your life enough times by now that you’re willing to believe it will be true in this case, too.

you also know that God provides everything that His people need to do the things He asks them to do, both emotional and practical. He will provide the bigger car and the extra beds. He will provide the spirit of adoption in your heart.

so you leap…

legacies

717-scenes-1i’m slowly reading a really wonderful, water-for-the-soul book that my sweet MIL recommended called Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Need to Breath by Sarah Mae and Sally Clarkson.

at the end of one chapter, the authors challenge the reader to intentionally write down five legacies she wants to leave for her children, then to think about how those can be intentionally built into the family culture and daily rhythms.

so i thought i’d share what i wrote (it’s a lot more than 5)!

  1. A conversational relationship with the living Christ, in which they speak to and hear Him
  2. Curiosity and compassion toward those who are different than they are (instead of judgement and fear)
  3. A practice of rest and sabbath
  4. A rested confidence in their belovedness
  5. Trusting yeildedness to obey God’s will and call, even when it seems scary or foolish
  6. The ability to ask good questions & knowledge about how to seek out information and answers
  7. Sharing meals around a table & appreciation of real/whole food
  8. A practice of hospitality
  9. An understanding of Church as the family of God (not a Sunday event)
  10. Stewardship and basic life skills competency (e.g., thrifting, cooking, creating order, budgeting)
  11. Enjoyment of music and silly dancing
  12. A tendency to see and savor beauty and to create beauty
  13. Using their voices to ask for what they need and to advocate for those who don’t have a voice
  14. Interdependence and problem-solving together
  15. Simplicity and minimalism

Next, i went through and wrote out a few practical ways that I can begin to embed each of these legacies in our family life and model them to our kids at this particular stage of their development. I know that the particulars of how we communicate these values to our kids will change as they grow older. For now it’s a lot of modeling; of showing them a certain kind of “normal” that will feel natural to them for their entire lives!

It was really exciting to do this exercise. And I have a simplified list of these values posted on our fridge now, in language that might be understood by a toddler. Each one begins with “We are a family that __[insert value here]_____.” Having these big picture goals in sight and in mind really adds another layer of meaning to the nitty gritty of our days, reminds me of why we do the work we do, why we live where we live, and why we’ve chosen the spiritual family that we walk with. It challenges me to model values that are part of my best self, and to do it consistently and joyfully.

Have you ever done something like this? I’d love to hear about your experience with it, or what your own hoped for legacies are!

since our son arrived…

Since our son arrived one week ago, our world has more or less been flipped upside down.  All schedules have been trampled upon, and all expectations have been suspended.  Soon we will resume everyday life, but for now, this is all we need.  We do all we can to take care of each other, and we wait for  a new routine to evolve.  We are re-learning how to manage a family, this time with as many children as each of us has hands.  Balance will come, and it will be beautiful.  But for now, our world is this simple life inside of our apartment, taking everything moment by moment, one day at a time.  I know that a time this simple will not come again.  Soon [daughter] will have her own world of friends and school, and [son] will begin his great journey of lifelong discovery.  But now- now all they need is their Mama and Papa, and each other, and this big world of family and food and rest and play inside of our little home.  [Husband] and I lay side by side in the darkness, ever so grateful to have one another in these amazingly beautiful and trying times.  Soon our whispered conversation evolves into sleep-deprived delirious laughter.  We laugh and laugh.  These are the days, we say.  This is family.  This is love.

from Belle over here

 

oh boy

we’re 20 1/2 weeks into this pregnancy now. i cannot believe how it has flown.

i also cannot believe how much more relaxed i am about it this time around. so much less time is spent reading pregnancy books and birth stories, or doing internet research about every little symptom i experience (not that i have that many symptoms). i feel freakishly relaxed.

i think baby does, too. though i’ve been feeling movements since VERY early on, they are so subtle and soft compared to what hazel’s were that they are extremely rarely felt from outside my body. but inside of me, there is this squirming, wiggling activity.

we had our first – and probably only – ultrasound yesterday, so that we could find out the gender (it’s a boy!). but what ended up being even more special than that was watching our baby move about. we didn’t know he was a boy, then; just a baby. he made sucking and swallowing movements with his mouth and throat. he appeared at one point to be sucking his thumb. he nestled his face into the placenta as if it were a soft pillow. he perpetually moved his arms around, but never in thrusting or kicking motions… only squirmy ones (just like how it has felt from the inside). and after a while of watching him, he turned over, face-down into the placenta and got very still. we could actually see his little body nestle in for sleep, including those last sudden twitches babies tend to have as they drift off into slumber. it was SO cool to be able to watch him that way. and then it seemed right to turn off the ultrasound equipment and let the little man take his nap.

it was my niece Claire’s birthday, too. so we made a multi-purpose cake. its first purpose was to celebrate her birthday. she decorated the top with sprinkles and chocolate chips. her mama frosted the middle layer with a dyed-blue frosting after opening the sealed envelope from the ultrasound tech which revealed the gender (we weren’t told while in the ultrasound appt). and so after singing happy birthday to Claire, and her blowing out the candles, tim and i cut into the cake to see what color frosting would come out on the knife. blue!

it was what we hoped for and also what we both strongly felt to be true. there have been a million little hints that have built upon my intuition: timing of conception, zits in first trimester, irritability/crankiness, carrying weight not just in my belly, heart rate, urine-on-baking-soda test… many of the old wives’ tales have been true in our case.

so, it’s a boy.

and his name is probably already established. we had a name before he was even conceived, but now that there’s an actual little person in my body whom can be linked to the name, we’ll sit on it a while longer to be sure it still feels right.

i feel that having a son is going to be a very special bond. i can’t wait. and tim is already dreaming of building tree forts.

ps: we’re 90% settled on his name already. but, no, we won’t tell you. 🙂